UPDATE 2-Sony to launch e-reader in Japan, take on Apple

* To launch e-reader and content service in Japan by yr-end

* To start e-reader operations in China, three other markets

* Will set up content planning firm with KDDI, Toppan, Asahi

* Sony shares end up 2.1 pct, outperforming broader market

(Adds Sony executive’s comments, details, background)

TOKYO, May 27 (BestGrowthStock) – Sony Corp (6758.T: ) said on
Thursday it would launch an e-reader and online content
distribution service in Japan by year-end, taking on rival Apple
Inc (AAPL.O: ) whose iPad hits shelves in the country on Friday.

The maker of PlayStation games and Bravia flat TVs said it
also plans to launch its e-book operations in China, Australia,
Spain and Italy this year.

Sony’s Reader electronics book reader, which vies with
Amazon.com’s (AMZN.O: ) Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s (BKS.N: ) Nook,
is available in the United States, Canada, Britain, France,
Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

The debut of the iPad, a computing and entertainment system
that also functions as an e-reader, is expected to boost Japan’s
still-small e-book market, which Chimera Research Institute
expects to double to about $1 billion in four years.

Sony has partnered with telecoms operator KDDI Corp
(9433.T: ), printing firm Toppan Printing Co (7911.T: ) and the
Asahi Shimbun newspaper to set up a planning company to prepare
for the service, which will offer book, comic, magazine and
newspaper content.

Asked about the time lag between iPad’s Japan debut and the
the launch of the planned contents distribution service, Sony
said the breadth of available content is more important than
time to market.

“An e-book business does not make much sense if it does not
come with enough content in terms of both quantity and quality
… You have to build a system first to ensure that,” Sony
Electronics Senior Vice President Fujio Noguchi told a news
conference. “I don’t think we are running behind.”

Sony Electronics is Sony’s U.S. electronics sales division.

Although the planning company will be owned a quarter each
by Sony, KDDI, Toppan and Asahi, the content distribution
business will be open for other firms to join, and there will be
multiple types of e-reader terminals from different companies,
Sony said.

“Will the new operating company offer contents to iPad or
Kindle? It is not for me to decide. But this is going to be an
open system. I don’t deny the possibility,” Noguchi said.

Sony attempted to create an e-reader market in the past when
it launched reading devices only to pull them from shelves after
a few lacklustre years due to a lack of content.

Before the announcement, Sony shares ended up 2.1 percent at
2,788 yen, outperforming a 1.2 percent rise in the benchmark
Nikkei average (.N225: ).

Growth Stocks

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Sachi Izumi; Editing by
Joseph Radford and Sharon Lindores)
($1=89.94 Yen)

UPDATE 2-Sony to launch e-reader in Japan, take on Apple